Fierce debate continues over an open letter sent by a top consultant to OnTheMarket at the end of last week, accusing it of leading to a reduction in the number of sales this year.
On Friday Richard Rawlings - an agency marketing expert with 30 years experience and regarded by many as Britain’s foremost agency trainer - wrote to OTM chief executive Ian Springett. The letter was penned jointly with Rawling’s business partner, Bradley Payne.
The core of Rawlings’ argument in the letter, reproduced in full here, is that there is little consumer awareness of OTM. Without that there is no knowledge amongst would-be buyers that properties are no longer generally duplicated across Rightmove and Zoopla.
“Buyers are simply not being exposed to the same number of properties that they would have seen pre-OTM” claims Rawlings.
He goes on to say: “This has led, not only to a decline in transactions, but also to a decline in new instructions because many people are not bringing their house to market (or are withdrawing it) simply because they do not believe they will find anywhere to buy. This has led to a vicious circle verging on a confidence crisis. And confidence is the one thing on which property markets thrive.”
Estate Agent Today asked on Friday if OnTheMarket had any comment on the open letter; any response will appear here.
But there was a major debate on the issue on EAT over the weekend, with some contributors pouring derision on the claim.
One agent wrote: “In 2007 transaction volumes were 60% higher than today. I then bought my cat. This distracted my attention from buying a house and the butterfly effect came into play. And look at the proof. Volumes are down. Evidence that it's the cats fault...”
Another wrote: “I used to enjoy listening to Richard as I thought he had a pretty good balanced view of the industry ... Pretty much every agent is on RM and pretty much every mover looks on RM, to blame OTM for lack of stock is ridiculous!”
A third critic commented: “The change to stamp duty at the end of last year, agents over valuing to win stock, buyers anticipating a slowdown in the market, possible interest rate increases, the general election...any of these are plausible reasons for a reduction in transaction levels and a lot more likely then not finding every available property through the internet a newspaper or the high street.”
Others regarded Rawlings’ analysys as sound. “The shame is that we all want an industry owned portal, and because of the divisive approach that the Agents Mutual board and team have followed, it is looking increasingly likely that this project will fail” said one.
Another commented: “As it is a fact that seeing stock leads to stock as well as sales, this analysis is valid. The whole industry has therefore suffered for the folly and poor judgement of the OTM venture.”
Richard Rawlings himself joined in the debate, defending his analysis. “I am not suggesting that people not using OTM is the issue - it's not. In fact OTM visitor numbers reported at between 2% and 5% of the market are negligible. Listing migration is not! The point is that buyers (especially those important speculative ones) who used to assume that they could access most properties using EITHER Rightmove OR Zoopla, now have to use BOTH - even without visiting OTM” he said.
The full text of Rawlings’ letter and the weekend debate can be found here.